Wartime Log for British Prisoners
Author: William Manningham
Publishers: Melrose Books
Publication Date: 2005
Publisher’s Title Information
This is the moving account of the capture and imprisonment of a British Merchant Seaman during the Second World War. Throughout the war William Manningham kept a diary in which he painstakingly recorded every detail of his captivity in the heart of Nazi Germany. More than sixty years later the fruit of his labours has been reproduced in its entirety giving us a fascinating snapshot of one man's war.
En route to Sierra Leone Manningham's ship is attacked by the German Raider Vir. He and his crewmates are captured and imprisoned below decks for the entirety of the tortuous journey to Germany. Life aboard the Vir and other German ships is described in astonishing detail. Squeezed into the tiny hold `like sardines in a tin', the crew are rendered helpless as other Allied ships are attacked and sunk by the Raider.
Eventually Manningham arrives at the infamous Milag Nord Prisoner of War camp.
Wartime Log for British Prisoners sheds light on every aspect of the lives of ordinary prisoners, from the monotony of the food to the intermittent brutality of the camp guards. Manningham also describes how captives broke the tedium of camp life by organising sporting events and theatrical productions. Also reproduced here are rare artefacts from including photographs, Milag Nord camp money and records of Red Cross parcels.
Wartime Log for British Prisoners is a goldmine of accurate information that will surely be of interest to World War historians and general readers alike. It is a compelling first-hand account of what it was like to be a Prisoner of War behind enemy lines. It is also acts as fitting tribute to the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
William Manningham was born on the 28th January 1923 in the North-East of England. He left school at the age of fourteen and joined the British Merchant Navy just two months later. He joined his fourth ship Cree on 6th January 1940. Later that year Manningham joined the Gracefield which was later captured en route from Montevideo to Sierra Leone. He was taken Prisoner of War and held at the infamous Milag Nord camp for the duration of the war. The camp was liberated by the Allies in 1945.
In 1950 Manningham re-enlisted in the Merchant Navy as a ship's cook. He was ashore from 1961 to 1970 before joining another ship as a Catering Officer. He retired from service in 1981 on medical grounds. William Manningham lives in Tyne and Wear in his native North-East.
The Ultimate Sacrifice
Author: David Turner
Publishers: Melrose Books
Publication Date: 2004
It has to be said that this small book of 80 pages is over-priced at £11.99. Although I say 80 pages, many have only a quarter or half text with the remainder of the page left blank. The fact is that it is really only about 45 pages.
The book is written in memory of the author’s late uncle, Commander Ralph Lennox Woodrow-Clark RN 1905-1939,who died in HMS Royal Oak on 13 October 1939, when U-47 penetrated the defences at Scapa Flow.
The book is an account of that event and is crammed with information and photographs. In fact in total there are 72 photographs and illustrations, which may account for the price. The book extends beyond the story of Royal Oak to include other Royal Naval Battleships, which of course it should, bearing such a sub-title as 'The World War II Battleship'. After some brief historical notes and some antecedent history of his uncle, Page 15 lists British Battleship losses 1939-1945, viz, Royal Oak, Hood, Barham, Prince of Wales and Repulse. Hood and Repulse are normally listed as Battlecruisers. However, this could be construed as splitting hairs and at a push you could have included HMS Centurion, which was expended as a breakwater at the Normandy Landings 7 or 9 June 1944, if you classified them all as ‘capital ships’.
The book concentrates on Royal Oak until Page 64 where other capital ships are discussed, starting with Bismarck and followed by Hood, now correctly described as a Battlecruiser with photographs of HM ships Nelson, Renown, Warspite and Barham. HMS Barham was torpedoed by U-331 25 November 1941 and the crew included my father’s brother.
There is a page of notes on the sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse and photographs of HM ships Duke of York and Vanguard. Then follows more photographs of various capital ships to fill out the remaining pages.
I feel that the book should really have concentrated on what it purports to be, as it is it covers the story of Royal Oak and then briefly uses notes and photographs of other ships including one German to fill the pages.
It is particularly puzzling to find a photograph of HMS Vanguard, which never saw war service. She was launched 30 November 1944 and not completed until 9 August 1946, although admittedly she often appears in books of Navies of WWII because she was launched in 1944.
The Captain’s Steward - Falklands 1982
Author: Barrie Fieldgate
Date: 2007-03-07 Publisher’s
Title Information Barrie
Fieldgate was the Captain's steward onboard the Royal Navy frigate HMS
Broadsword, which operated in the South Atlantic during the Falklands War. As the title indicates, the core of this
book comprises the observations of a Falklands War veteran during the period of
that conflict. Fieldgate's
diary provides a detailed insight into the private thoughts, fears and views of
a crew member whose main source of information was lower deck chat,
supplemented by periodic situation reports from a senior officer. The end result, in the words of his
commanding officer, is a book which "while obviously of greatest interest
to Broadsword's ship's company during the period from April to July 1982, will
also appeal to a wider readership".
Specifically, it should make a good read for anyone who had an
involvement with the Falklands War or wants to gain a greater understanding of
what it was like for some of the ordinary service personnel who took part. The
diary begins on April 5, 1982, with the author outlining his general duties and
daily life on board Broadsword. The
author then describes routine naval life and many of the incidents that he and
his colleagues have been involved in.
He recalls that there is always excitement among the crew of a vessel
when it arrives in a new port, particularly one overseas. Reverting
back to the specific period of time covered by the diary, the author recalls
that after leaving Gibraltar and heading for Naples in Italy, concern among the
crew began to increase as they hear that more naval ships are being ordered to
take on stores in Gibraltar. They are
of course already well aware that tension is building up between Britain and
Argentina over the Falkland Islands. Even so, he remembers, at that stage most
of the crew think a peaceful solution will be found. Later that evening, though, Broadsword receives "the one and
only signal that the whole ship's company had hoped would never be
received". Specifically, the ship
is ordered to return to Gibraltar and prepare to sail to the South Atlantic -
and war. "We all realise that this
is for real,' writes the author. The
rest of the diary charts the progress of the war, the mounting casualties as a
number of British ships are hit by enemy fire and the thoughts of the author
and his crewmates during that period.
In the author's own concluding words, "from May 1 until May 24 our
ships were under constant attack and this book reflects exactly what I saw of
it". That last comment highlights
the dominant feature of this diary - the fact that it is very much a personal
account of the war and the author's thoughts as events unfold. GUNS ABOVE, STEAM BELOW AGW Lamont ISBN: 1905226608 Melrose £14.99 2002 A.G.W. Lamont Publisher's Title Information
Publication Date: 2007-03-07
Publisher’s Title Information
Barrie Fieldgate was the Captain's steward onboard the Royal Navy frigate HMS Broadsword, which operated in the South Atlantic during the Falklands War. As the title indicates, the core of this book comprises the observations of a Falklands War veteran during the period of that conflict.
Fieldgate's diary provides a detailed insight into the private thoughts, fears and views of a crew member whose main source of information was lower deck chat, supplemented by periodic situation reports from a senior officer. The end result, in the words of his commanding officer, is a book which "while obviously of greatest interest to Broadsword's ship's company during the period from April to July 1982, will also appeal to a wider readership". Specifically, it should make a good read for anyone who had an involvement with the Falklands War or wants to gain a greater understanding of what it was like for some of the ordinary service personnel who took part.
The diary begins on April 5, 1982, with the author outlining his general duties and daily life on board Broadsword. The author then describes routine naval life and many of the incidents that he and his colleagues have been involved in. He recalls that there is always excitement among the crew of a vessel when it arrives in a new port, particularly one overseas.
Reverting back to the specific period of time covered by the diary, the author recalls that after leaving Gibraltar and heading for Naples in Italy, concern among the crew began to increase as they hear that more naval ships are being ordered to take on stores in Gibraltar. They are of course already well aware that tension is building up between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands. Even so, he remembers, at that stage most of the crew think a peaceful solution will be found. Later that evening, though, Broadsword receives "the one and only signal that the whole ship's company had hoped would never be received". Specifically, the ship is ordered to return to Gibraltar and prepare to sail to the South Atlantic - and war. "We all realise that this is for real,' writes the author.
The rest of the diary charts the progress of the war, the mounting casualties as a number of British ships are hit by enemy fire and the thoughts of the author and his crewmates during that period. In the author's own concluding words, "from May 1 until May 24 our ships were under constant attack and this book reflects exactly what I saw of it". That last comment highlights the dominant feature of this diary - the fact that it is very much a personal account of the war and the author's thoughts as events unfold.
GUNS ABOVE, STEAM BELOW
Publisher's Title InformationGuns Above, Steam Below is the true story of the experiences of A. G. W. Lamont, an Engineer Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve.
His first sea-going experience was in the corvette HMCS Cobalt on the triangle run Halifax, New York, St. John's. There he instructed the engineering staff on caring for their boiler waters and stood watch on the bridge with Mate Bert, RCNR, a great man. Cobalt was one of many corvettes, fending off the U-boats while themselves experiencing Guns Above, Steam Below. The largest part of the book, however, deals with the River Class destroyer HMCS Qu ‘Appelle on various assignments, including the Normandy invasion of World War II.
Lamont provides a brief history of the ship with the aid of photographs and diagrams. Extracts from the memoirs of some of his ship-mates are used to recall life on board and he describes many of the crew in detail, and with great affection. Lamont also recalls his own experiences in the ‘Steam Below' spaces of the ship where the men were oblivious to what was happening, either on-deck or in the sea below, and were subject to extreme heat and noise - including the noise of outgoing and incoming shell fire, depth charges and torpedoes exploding nearby. He then recounts his experiences of the events that took place during his career.
After several trips across the Atlantic; Qu ‘Appelle was assigned as the lead ship of four to be positioned at the west entrance of the English Channel during the Normandy invasion. Their orders were to prevent U-boats from getting at the enormous number of vessels in the invasion fleet. About a month later, Qu ‘Appelle . was also leader of the four Canadian River Class destroyers engaged with their ‘Guns Above' in the Battle of the Black Stones, launched against a group of U-boats and heavily armed escorts as they left port in Brest. In October 1944, when their presence was no longer required in the Channel, Qu ‘Appelle and three other ships, including HMCS Skeena were sent to patrol an area near Iceland. A vicious storm blew up and the shore authorities advised the ships to anchor until it had passed. This proved successful for all but one, HMCS Skeena. Lamont gives a most gripping and moving description of the wild and tragic events that followed as Skeena's anchor dragged and she was driven relentlessly onto the rocks near Reykjavik, causing the loss of a number of her crew.
Guns Above, Steam Below provides a fascinating insight into the lives of the people who were brought together by war and makes an insistent point about the nature of leadership. It will prove compelling reading for those with an interest in engineering, the Canadian navy or the events of World War 11.
About the Author
Archie George Wares Lamont was born in Canada on April 9th, 1921. He studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Toronto, where he would meet and later marry his wife, Claire. After graduating, Archie trained at the Canadian Officer Training Corps and joined the Canadian Navy shortly after. In April 1944, he was assigned to the destroyer HMCS Qu ‘Appelle as Senior Engineer while she lead a group of four destroyers in the naval operations of D-Day and subsequent months. Three years later, after studying for a Master's Degree in Physical Chemistry, he joined Eldorado Mining and Refining as Assistant Uranium Superintendent and later became Assistant Manager. In 1952 Archie, Claire, three-year old daughter, Dale, and newly arrived son, Jim, headed to the U.S. as landed immigrants, full of hope for the future. The stay was brief. On returning to Canada, he became a founder of Hatch, one of the world's leading providers of engineering and construction management to the global energy and infrastructure sectors. During his 30 years with Hatch, Archie was a major contributor to the firm's long-term success and was well respected and highly revered by his colleagues.
A.G.W. Lamont presents us with his overview of life in the Royal Canadian Navy during the latter part of the Second World War. He does this through the eyes of Officer, Engineer, and Shipmate using personal experiences, accounts taken from other works, official documents, official records and official diagrams seasoned with quotations from the likes of Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Schull.
Throughout the book, he details the bond between the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy, charting the rise and demise of the former from the time of Henry VIII until the missile age and relating the amazing growth, a ratio of 50:1, of the latter from the outbreak of hostilities until the end of the war. He gives us a detailed insight into the rise of the Nazi war machine starting with the rise of Nazism in the 1930s and culminating in the plan for naval supremacy using battleship and U-boat. The U-boat programme itself is explained with many references to individual boats, commanders and actions. He follows the programme from visionary beginnings to its demise through the tactical co-operation of ships and aircraft. Merchant ships are mentioned and acknowledged for making the dangerous, arduous and often fatal journeys to ensure constant re-supply of the war effort in Europe.
He recounts his first experience of life at sea aboard the Corvette HMCS Cobalt on the ‘Triangle run’ between Halifax, New York and St. Johns, training the engineering staff on the care of Boiler Water. The fundamental operation and care of boiler powered steam machinery is explained meticulously, giving an insight for the uninitiated and bringing back memories for those who have worked steam powered vessels. Boiler water maintenance for the RCN was managed from three main ports, Halifax, Prince Rupert and Esquimalt. The author introduces us to the character and climate of them during WW2, particularly Halifax, telling us a little of their past and the effect of the transient wartime population on life there.
The main part of the book is given over to HMCS Qu’Appelle. Readers without military service will be surprised that even during wartime, heavy constraints were placed upon the Navy as regards budgets. Those who have served their country will relate to the frustration expressed when people are willing to show extraordinary courage and comradeship in exceptional circumstances, only to find that due to fuel, stores and ammunition allowances they are unable to fulfil their potential as a unit, or undertake training to make them truly efficient in combat.
Lamont is keen throughout to impress the importance of good leadership and displays admiration for those who possess that quality. He introduces characters from the ship’s company giving a rounded view of how individuals affect the morale and performance of a fighting ship from the Captain to the Engine Room Stoker. He recounts HMCS Qu’Appelle’s role as lead vessel of four, patrolling the English Channel during the Normandy Landings, defending the Invasion fleet against the U-boat threat, leading the engagement of an enemy convoy off Brest in The Battle of the Black Stones and her collision with HMCS Skeena during Operation Kinetic. In October 1944 HMCS Qu’Appelle was the lead ship of four blockading access to the Atlantic for U-boats from German and Norwegian ports, when tragedy struck with the loss of HMCS Skeena, by grounding, during a storm off Reykjavik from which all four ships were sheltering. Although a relatively small number of the crew were lost, the tale of the events as told by survivors and the subsequent enquiry makes compelling reading and obviously had a profound impact upon those directly and indirectly involved.
The last year of the war brought time on HMS Battler, an aircraft carrier training pilots out of Rosyth on the Forth, then to HMCS Warrior in build at Harland and Wolff in Belfast. Having contracted Dermatitis the author was recommended for discharge. His journey home via HMCS Niobe in Greenock, formerly an asylum for the insane, seems an inauspicious end to a whirlwind naval career.
Guns above, steam below is thoroughly interesting and very factual. A mix of personal accounts, history and technical information presented in a style that works very well and will appeal to anyone with an interest in Naval history or engineering.
Twenty-Two Hundred Days to Pulo We, My Education in the Navy
Author: Jack Edwards
Publishers: Melrose Books
Publication Date: December 2005
Twenty-Two Hundred Days to Pulo We: My Education in the Navy is one of the best examples of a personal naval memoir to emerge in recent years.
Jack Edwards Joined the Navy at HMS ST Vincent (Gosport Hampshire)as an inexperienced fifteen-year-old boy, compelled by family circumstances. His father fled the family home with a chorus girl and, in an age before social security, Jack chose to take this brave step to support his family. Over the next seven years he literally grew up in the Royal Navy.
When war was declared in 1939, Jack's family remained convinced that the Navy would never send such a young boy to sea. However, he was posted to HMS Nigeria, a Fiji (Colony Class Cruiser)where he lived and worked for the duration of the war. Feeling like a boy in an adult world, he was amazed to find that he was treated like a man, and expected to act like one. Jack and his shipmates experienced hardships unimaginable to teenagers of today. What will amaze the reader is how well they coped with being thrust into this very adult world of duty and responsibility.
HMS Nigeria immediately became involved in conflict in the Arctic, fighting alongside the Russians. She had a busy war in many naval engagements, fighting the Germans in Russia, on Arctic convoys, on special missions, on operation Pedestal and
then three more years fighting in the Far East. When the war in Europe was over they continued to fight the Japanese. After the 'Abomb', they cleaned out pockets of resistance and found prisoners of war in horrifying circumstances.
Edwards conveys his experiences in warm, familiar language that emphasises the human aspect of war and which immerses the reader in the culture of life at sea aboard HMS Nigeria. He affectionately describes his shipmates and shares with us his sense of loss for those who gave their lives in the service of their country. He brilliantly conveys the camaraderie, the humour, the hardship and the strange navy rituals and traditions encountered by the Royal Navy sailors during those difficult years.
Twenty-two Hundred Days to Pulo We serves as a fitting tribute to the Boy Seamen of the Second World War, many of whom were never to return home.
This somewhat strange title does not become obvious or should I say reveal itself until very late in the book. It could have been called HMS Nigeria’s War, because unusually Jack Edwards served in the ship throughout the war.
Often when I see a television programme about WWI, mention is made of the fact that boys as young as seventeen were in the trenches officially (not those who lied about their age). How many people are aware of the number of Boy Seamen in the Royal Navy who fought and died in both wars having been sent to sea at sixteen. I am pleased to see Jack Edwards put the record straight immediately in his Introduction.
The Author's Introduction says, "Take a look at the photograph taken in 1939. It is of the thirty-three boys (out of the original forty - not including the two instructors and a dog!) who completed the five-week course at HMS St Vincent, the stone frigate at Gosport, and who reached the end of the assessment stage. At the same time as we were completing our course at St Vincent, two other groups, each of forty boys of a similar age, were being assessed at Shotley and Rosyth. They later completed training with us on the Isle of Man.
These 120-odd sixteen-year-olds from St Vincent, Shotley and Rosyth were trained for seven months (at that time the war had started). They were divided into six school classes of twenty boys, plus the teacher. Each group was sent to a different RN ship. My group, already reduced by illness to seventeen, was sent to HMS Nigeria..….. Although very young, the only person who regarded himself as a 'boy' was the boy himself - who was amazed to find he was treated with such respect by his elders - but in spite of this he still only received one shilling (5p) per week and was only allowed ashore on Saturday and Sunday afternoons!
The boy seamen showed great courage. They looked after one another, retained their spirit of fun and adventure and were always willing to volunteer for difficult jobs to play their part in winning the war. I never heard any of them complain or say that it was unfair or that they should have been sent to serve in the war at that age; they just did their jobs to the best of their ability".
The author clearly remembers, as I am sure that all Ex-Boy Seamen do, the trip to the Recruitment Office to join at fifteen. And didn’t we all feel so grown up! The author was a St Vincent boy for a very short time. As WWII broke out the boys were moved to the Isle of Man and HMS St Vincent was used for initial training for Pilots and Observers.
One of the first items the author was issued with was a ‘Housewife’. It certainly was. Like Boy Seamen before and after, he had to sew his name into every item of kit. My recollection was red silk and cross-stitch. The ‘Housewife’ also contained inter alia, wool to darn holes in woollen socks - another art we all had to perfect to the amusement of our Mothers. On Page 19 the author describes the delights of the HMS St Vincent outdoor swimming pool and the Navy system for teaching non-swimmers to swim – or drown as the case may be. In 1956 we were lucky because our first encounter with water was in the indoor pool and like Jack, I was fortunate being a strong swimmer. In 1956 they still employed the same method for non-swimmers. This consisted of throwing a boy in and waiting to see if he sunk. Probably something similar to the treatment of witches with a Ducking Stool – if you floated you were guilty. If the non-swimmer seemed in grave danger a long pole was used to fish him out. Chapter 2 concludes HMS St Vincent and Jack moved on to a ‘Holiday Camp’ on the Isle of Man.
On the way to Cunningham’s Holiday Camp, later renamed HMS St George, Jack describes how on the train two old ladies were reduced to tears on learning that 15 year old boys were off to war.
Jack describes his training at HMS St George from where he moved to Pembroke V at Chatham. He was a Boy Seaman from 15 August 1939 until rated Ordinary Seaman 13 May 1941. Reading this book leads me to the conclusion that their training was shorter in wartime which is to be expected. In 1956 we trained as a Boy (Juniors from April 1 1956) for a full 12 months.
The old ‘excused boots’ trick Jack describes at Chatham wouldn’t have worked at St Vincent and Jack’s memory must be wrong where on Page 50 he claims you were issued with rum on your 18th Birthday – it was in fact 20 when you were entitled to draw or opt to be ‘T’. I cannot clearly remember my 20th Birthday, but then what Ex-Matelot does.
Jack’s statement about the colour of your collar identifying your length of service was certainly true but later in my service the Admiralty did produce some lighter blue collars which retained the dye. They weren’t a patch on a well-scrubbed Mediterranean blue of the old style.
On Page 99 Jack describes HMS Maidstone as a fast minelayer. He of course must mean HMS Manxman, which was one of a class of three still around in the 60s. These ships had three funnels. HMS Maidstone was a submarine depot ship. It is highly unlikely that Maidstone would be escorting a convoy. On Page 101 Jack states that divers were paid an hourly bonus when working below. I cannot say what regulations existed in WWII but when I first qualified as a diver in 1961 we were paid 1d (1 old penny) as shallow water divers down to 33ft. Because we were breathing pure oxygen it would be very dangerous to go below that depth. My recollection was that it was 2d from 33 – 66 ft and so on because we still had helmet divers and others using a mixture to dive deeper. It was about that time that we switched to air with SABA (Swimmers Air Breathing Apparatus) sets. In 1962 it changed and I received 4 shillings a day extra every day irrespective of whether I dived or not. There is some confusion over Jack’s rating. On Page 264 he states that he was never an Able Seaman (AB) but went from Ordinary Seaman to Leading Seaman. However on Page 315 he says "I stayed an AB for fourteen months" on Page 338 there is a photocopy of his service record and it shows he was an AB from 30 December 1941 until 25 April 1943 that is sixteen months. This also reveals at his specialist qualifications was QR2.
Jack writes about operating Radar, according to reference books I have, Nigeria was fitted with types 273 and 284 in 1941, also Air Warning Radar type 279.
Rum is mentioned again on Page 318 when on VE day an extra tot was issued with the order ‘splice the mainbrace’. Jack says "In all that time the Navy had given me one free rum". I thought it was all free. I don’t remember ever paying for it. Mistakes apart, this is a fascinating book with very many photographs illustrations and explanations which will bring back may memories eg paint ship, moor ship, a joining shackle, the boom, and even an ET1 paper are to be found amongst it’s pages and what Seaman can forget the ’Robinson’s Disengaging Gear’ - forget how to use that at your peril.
There is a very full description of Operation Pedestal. This book must have taken a lot of research. Highly recommended. If you want to know where Pulo We is buy the book.